The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa is about a housekeeper tasked with taking care of a professor whose memory lasts eighty minutes. The memory loss had been caused by a car accident and now he lives in a tiny dilapidated house where he toils away at math prizes. A beautiful relationship emerges once the son of the housekeeper, nicknamed Root, comes into the equation. The professor cares for Root and is highly protective of him, trying to stop the bleeding from a cut on Roots hand to protecting him from a baseball. Both Root and the professor are enamored with baseball, but in two different ways through math and though the athleticism of the game. Throughout the novel, the housekeeper takes the professor and Root to a baseball game, she learns the tragic nature of the professor’s past, and in the end throws a birthday party for Root as well as for the professor winning a huge math prize. However, as the novel progresses, the professor’s memory shortens. In the end, the professor’s sister-in-law admits him to a living facility where he eventually dies.
Ogawa is a master at creating strikingly quiet and profound moments whether in the discussion of math or in the small details of the professor. I was charmed by the relationship between the professor and Root, implying that love and friendship go beyond time and memory. It’s a heartwarming and tender novel that I am glad I revisited.
Final Rating: 5/5
Maxwell Suzuki is a writer, poet, and photographer based in Los Angeles.